An official counts ballots after polls closed in Bani
Sweif, about 115km south of Cairo. Photo by Reuters
Egypt has announced voters had approved overwhelmingly a
constitution drafted by President Mohamed Mursi's Islamist
allies, and the government imposed currency restrictions to
cope with an economic crisis worsened by weeks of unrest.
Final figures from the elections commission showed the
constitution was adopted with 63.8 percent of the vote,
giving Islamists their third straight victory at the polls
since Hosni Mubarak was toppled in a 2011 revolution.
Mursi's Leftist, liberal, secularist and Christian opponents
had taken to the streets to block what they argued was a move
to ram through a charter that would dangerously mix politics
The president argues that the new constitution offers
sufficient protection for minorities, and adopting it quickly
is necessary to end two years of turmoil and political
uncertainty that has wrecked the economy.
Hours before the vote result was announced, the authorities
imposed a new ban on travelling in or out of the country with
more than $10,000 in foreign currency, a move apparently
intended to halt capital flight.
Some Egyptians have begun withdrawing their savings from
banks in fear of tougher restrictions.
The "yes" vote paves the way for a parliamentary election in
about two months, setting the stage for yet another electoral
battle between surging Islamists and their fractious liberal
and leftist opponents.
The final result, announced by the election commission,
matched - to the last decimal place - an earlier unofficial
tally announced by Mursi's Muslim Brotherhood.
The constitution was drawn up by a body largely made up of
Mursi's Islamist allies. The results announcement was a
disappointment for the opposition which had put pressure on
the authorities to recount the result to reflect what they
have described as major vote violations.
"We have seriously investigated all the complaints," judge
Samir Abu el-Matti of the Supreme Election Committee told a
news conference. The final official turnout was 32.9 percent.
Cairo, gripped by often violent protests in the runup to the
vote, appeared calm after the announcement and opposition
groups have announced no plans for demonstrations to mark the
"The results was so odd and no change in the percentage
points shows that nothing was done to take our complaints
into account," Khaled Dawood, an opposition spokesman, said.
The referendum, held on December 15 and on December 22, has
sown deep divisions in the Arab world's most populous nation
but Mursi says enacting the new constitution quickly will
bring stability and a chance to focus on fixing the economy.
A growing sense of crisis has gripped Egypt's polarised
society for weeks. Standard and Poor's cut Egypt's long-term
credit rating on Monday (local time).
Hours ahead of the results announcement, Prime Minister
Hisham Kandil told the nation of 83 million the government
was committed to taking steps to heal the economy.
"The main goals that the government is working towards now is
plugging the budget deficit, and working on increasing growth
to boost employment rates, curb inflation, and increase the
competitiveness of Egyptian exports," he said.
The central bank said on Monday it would take steps to
"safeguard" bank deposits, without giving any details.
Rumours are rife of what sort of measures are planned.
"I have been hearing that the central bank is going to take
over all our bank deposits to pay wages for government
employees given the current deteriorating economic
situation," said Ayman Osama, father of two young children.
He said he had taken out the equivalent of about $16,000 from
his account this week and planned to withdraw more, adding
that he had also told his wife to buy more gold jewellery.
"I am not going to put any more money in the bank and neither
will many of the people I know," he said.
The referendum is the Islamists' third electoral victory
since the fall of Mubarak, following parliamentary and
presidential elections, representing a decisive shift in a
country at the heart of the Arab world, where Mursi's Muslim
Brotherhood was suppressed for generations by military
However, secularist and liberal opposition members hope they
can organise better in time for the next parliamentary vote.
The opposition says the constitution fails to guarantee
personal freedoms and rights for women and minorities. The
government says the criticism is misplaced.
Hossam El-Din Ali, a 35-year-old newspaper vendor in central
Cairo, said he agreed the new constitution would help bring
some political stability but like many others he feared the
possible economic austerity measures lying ahead.
"People don't want higher prices. People are upset about
this," he said. "There is recession, things are not moving.
But I am wishing for the best, God willing."